Explosion in Portsmouth student high-rise accommodation ‘splitting up communities’

The Greetham Street block of student housing
The Greetham Street block of student housing

Longer trains and extra seats for passengers next week

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ANOTHER student hall of residence is set to tower above Portsmouth city centre – despite fears communities are being divided by the explosion in high-rise development.

Plans to demolish the home of a Co-operative Bank and Musicroom Portsmouth in Commercial Road and replace it with a 19-storey building with 256 rooms have been approved by the council.

We would like to see a longer term view taken about mixed and balanced communities. Because if you walk from Somers Town, the proliferation of developer led, high rise student accommodation is in danger of encouraging zoned environments.

Jan Dod, of People’s Action Team for Community Harmony

It will take the total number of student beds either built or set to be constructed to about 3,300 within a mile.

Yet addressing the council’s planning committee Jan Dod, of People’s Action Team for Community Harmony, said: ‘We would like to see a longer-term view taken about mixed and balanced communities.

‘Because if you walk from Somers Town, the proliferation of developer-led, high-rise student accommodation is in danger of encouraging zoned environments.

‘We don’t want to see zoning – young people in one area and elderly people in another.’

Lib Dem councillor Steve Pitt added: ‘The cumulative impact of tall buildings, could reach crisis point.’

The University of Portsmouth objected – saying it had not been asked its views over the plans, led by Crosslane Student Developments.

It comes after university chiefs said they were not properly consulted over the construction of £30m student towers housing 484 students set to be built as part of the redevelopment of nearby Chaucer House.

Lib Dem councillor Lee Hunt said: ‘This is one of the main economic drivers in our city, and yet we are not talking to them.

‘I’m not getting this at all, it seems very wrong.’

The committee feared a potential rise in traffic could lead to ‘disaster’ if not managed properly.

But Jon Stewart, representing the developer, said there is ‘competitive demand’ for housing in residential areas – and taking students out frees up family homes.

‘The quality of accommodation is seen as a selling point for universities, in what is now a global education market,’ he added.

But Tory councillor Ken Ellcome, who led approval of the plans, said: ‘On balance, it’s a good proposal, and regardless of the university’s concerns, it will free up homes for families which is desperately needed.

‘There is always a slight risk of huge development like this, of it having an impact on the surrounding area.

‘But in a place like that, it will not impact on other residents or anybody else.’

In a statement, deputy Tory council leader, Cllr Luke Stubbs, said students were key to the ‘transformation’ of the south of the city.

A wave of halls providing student rooms have already been built in the city centre: Greetham Street – 836; Earlsdon Street – 35; Guildhall Walk – 25; The Registry – 41.

Under construction are: Zurich House – 999; Europa House – 262; Middle Street – 124; The Trafalgar – 83; Lake Road – 30.

In the planning stage are: Isambard Brunel Road – 484; Surrey Street – 576; Stanhope House – 256; and Middle Street – 66.